Books: the actor and the housewife
  The ARC letter

For the front of the ARC (advance reading copy), my publisher asked me to write a letter to my readers. Here it is.

Dear Reader,

I never thought I'd say this, but it started with a dream.

In August 2006, I was proofing the galleys for Austenland, my first book for adults. Austenland, the story of a woman obsessed with Mr. Darcy, is dedicated to Colin Firth: "You're a really great guy, but I'm married, so I think we should just be friends." I sent him a copy of the book. It's weird, but he still hasn't written back. Huh.

Anyway, one morning I woke savoring a dream about an unlikely friendship. Becky was a Utah Mormon mother (kind of like me) and Felix was a British actor (kind of like Colin--I can call him Colin, right?). Perhaps my sleeping mind had been working over that question in my dedication--she's married, he's married, so what if they did become 'just friends'?

My husband got up with our toddler (bless him) while I lay in bed for an hour, luxuriating in Story. I loved hearing Becky and Felix speak together, seeing what trouble they caused, and trying to imagine how it would all turn out. The next day, I was supposed to be rewriting my new young adult fantasy, but the dream-story possessed me, so I began to write it out. The rush of scenes was so foreign to my writing process, I didn't think I was starting a book, just dumping characters out of my mind and onto paper so I could be sane again. (Fat chance.)

And...two and a half years later, here's the book. I both laughed and cried harder while writing this than with any other. I am not Becky Jack; Colin Firth is not Felix Callahan. But what if...? He should really return my calls.

Shannon Hale.

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